Skip to main content

OCS Leadership

Dr. Shefali V. Mehta
REE, Deputy Under Secretary
USDA, Acting Chief Scientist

Dr. Shefali Mehta is the Deputy Under Secretary for the Research, Education, and Economics mission area and Acting USDA Chief Scientist, which is comprised of the Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the Office of the Chief Scientist. Together these organizations cut across every USDA department and have a unique responsibility to advance agricultural research, extension, and education.

As an environmental and agricultural economist and statistician, Dr. Mehta comes to USDA from Open Rivers Consulting Associates, a science & technology and management consulting firm she founded and led. In her role as founder and principal, she helped clients intertwine innovation, data and science, compassion, diversity of perspectives and the importance of the environment for overall health into their skills and values.

Over the course of her career, she has worked in roles across private, public and non-profit sectors including McKinsey, Syngenta, the Soil Health Partnership, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, St. Olaf College, and the American Cancer Society. She has also served as a Board or Advisory Council member of several organizations: the conservation organization Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever (also served as Vice Chair of the Board, the first woman to hold this position), Bountifield, Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pest Center, the School of Statistics at University of Minnesota, The Gates Scholar Advisory Council, amongst others.

Originally from New England, Dr. Mehta received her Ph.D. in Agricultural and Applied Economics and M.S. in Statistics from the University of Minnesota, M.Phil. in Economics from Cambridge University, and a B.A. in Economics from New York University.

Richard Derksen
OCS, Acting Director

Dr. Richard (Rich) Derksen is Acting Director of the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS). In this capacity, he supports the Chief Scientist in leading cross-cutting strategic planning and collaboration activities for science programs that support scientific excellence, innovation, and capacity to achieve USDA’s mission. The Office works to preserve and promote the integrity of USDA-supported research and scientific decision-making. The Office also leads strategic international S&T engagements for USDA’s Chief Scientist and works to ensure equitable access to USDA science information.

Dr. Derksen has over 25 years of engineering research experience. He is an internationally recognized expert in crop production and protection engineering. Dr. Derksen began his career at USDA in 1996 when he joined the Agricultural Research Service as a research scientist. He has authored over 200 publications, including 78 peer-reviewed journal manuscripts, and given numerous invited presentations at national and international scientific meetings. Dr. Derksen received his Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Illinois. He received his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering from Purdue University. He previously held a faculty research and extension appointment at Cornell University. Dr. Derksen is originally from Indiana and has engaged in his local communities as a 4-H advisor, neighborhood association leader, and substitute teacher.